One of the coolest things that each new Chapter Approved has brought to the game has been a new set of Matched Play missions. We’ve already posted reviews of the balance changes and the book as a whole (where Rob talked about missions a bit), but today we’re going to deep dive into the missions, identifying which ones look like the most fun to play and what strategies might work in each.
While we (and other) sites focus a lot of our competitive discussions on the ITC format, plenty of events (including GW’s own GTs) make use of the Chapter Approved or Rulebook missions or a twist on them (as is the case for the ETC and various majors in Europe). They’re also the default for matched play games at clubs and on kitchen tables around the world, which means that for the vast majority of players a new Chapter Approved is what provides a breath of fresh air in terms of mission formats.
The great news for those players (and, indeed, the game as a whole) is that Chapter Approved 2019 (CA19) has easily the best set of missions that GW have put out for 8th edition, and that’s clearly because of a real effort on the part of the designers to get them right and design for balance. The Eternal War missions are a mixture of a best-of from previous years and some new, refined choices while Maelstrom of War has been replaced by Schemes of War, fleshing out the rules from White Dwarf that we reviewed previously with six missions that each provide a twist on this fantastic way to play. As a European player, I’ve played a reasonable amount of Eternal War and Maelstrom in a tournament setting, and while I’m more ITC focused now I expect to play these in events as well (at least once in March, see below), and am honestly really excited by the prospect.
In each of the two parts of this review, we’re going to go through the general rules for one of the two sets of missions, then dive into each individual one and discuss how they work and what strategies it favours. Battlefield Birmingham, a twice-yearly major in the UK, has just announced their pack for the year and are going to be using both some of the new Eternal War missions and the Schemes of War missions as part of it, so this is hopefully pretty topical for our UK event-going audience. They’re also fresh in my mind, because as we mentioned previously I’ve been writing an Escalation League event pack, and very quickly came to the decision to just entirely use missions from CA19 where I wasn’t writing something custom, which should also give you an idea of how much better I think they are than previous years.
We hope you enjoy this summary, and if you think we’ve missed anything or have any comments, do hit us up at email@example.com or via our Facebook Page, as we want this to be a good resource for people to refer to when planning for events using them.
Eternal War Missions
2018’s Eternal War missions were a bit of a disappointment. The missions had some promising ideas on first read, but several of them played terribly, having either high amounts of bookkeeping (Cut off the Head), heavily luck-based mechanics (Vital Intelligence, Supplies from Above), or massively favouring some armies (Narrow the Search) in ways that just aren’t suitable for tournament play and can be un-fun for one side in a game. The cause of this was almost certainly the attempt to write six new ones – there isn’t that much design space in Eternal War style missions without introducing mechanics which cross the line into “gimmicky”, where ideally these should be accessible missions that you can pick up and have a good, balanced game of.
That lesson has been emphatically learnt this year. Rather than six new missions, we have four returning ones (with varying degrees of improvements) and two new ones, all of which are well tuned for competitive play (with just a single one holding on to a slightly questionable decision from its initial incarnation). There’s also a designers’ commentary with each one, which makes it clear that the high quality of the missions is no accident – the developers now clearly understand what makes the game tick and are deploying it to good effect.
All missions share the following general rules:
“Full Army” deployment, introduced in Chapter Approved 2018 (CA18), remains the standard for all missions. One player deployes their whole army, then the other deploys theirs, and the player that deployed first chooses who goes first (with a seize opportunity for the other). The only change is that a terminology of “Attacker” and “Defender” has been introduced to identify the two players after the initial roll-off. This has no impact on the actual gameplay, but makes the deployment and first turn sections of the missions way easier to understand and follow – use of “the player that finished deploying first” in last year’s missions confused a lot of people because it seemed redundant with the full army version.
I am a huge fan of “rules hygeine” so am fully in favour of this change (and it follows through into Schemes missions as well). It also brings the terminology in-line with what’s used in Narrative Play missions, making life more consistent for players that play both.
Another returnee from CA18, this rule means that Sudden Death is not in effect, so the game does not end if one player has only FLYER units remaining. This a positive thing, and most tournament formats have some variant of this, where tabling an opponent does not guarantee you the victory if your opponent was massively ahead. Last year praise for this had to be delivered with a caveat of sorts because some of the more unusual, lower-scoring missions (OK I’m talking about Narrow the Search again, you got me) could end up in a state where it was borderline impossible for one player to win the game by about turn four even if the game had felt quite balanced on the board.
With the new missions that’s basically not a concern and this does what it’s supposed to – forces powerful shooting armies to not just ignore playing the mission for three turns while they eradicate the enemy from the board.
First Strike (destroy an enemy unit in the first battle round), Slay the Warlord (self explanatory) and Linebreaker (have a unit in the enemy’s deployment zone at the end of the battle) are in effect for all missions. You know them, you love them, and Slay and Linebreaker in particular often add a nice extra bit of tension in games that go down to the wire with minimal forces left on each side. Note that if you missed last year’s Chapter Approved 2018, First Strike differs from First Blood in that both players can score it instead of just one, a huge improvement over an objective that could often be impossible to score for the player going second.
Random Game Length
Eternal War missions have a random length. At the end of the fifth battle round, the game continues on a 3+, then at the end of the sixth it continues on a 4+. This equates to games running for 5, 6, or 7 battle rounds 1/3rd of the time each. This is one place where GW haven’t adopted common tournament standards – most competitive packs use fixed game length, usually 6 turns. While in general I prefer fixed length, there is some strategy to playing random length missions, especially with Linebreaker in play and start-of-turn scoring being the default. It forces you to plan around contingencies and make risk/reward calculations as you head into the later turns, especially in close games. Acceptable Casualties also reduces the frequency with which a game will turn on the game-end roll (the most common situation this happened prior to it was one player clinging on with a VP lead and a few models remaining at the end of Battle Round 5). Ultimately, however, with Random Length in play some games will still be decided on a single “external” dice roll, and that’s generally enough of a feelbad for the loser that I prefer playing without it. However, it’s also the easiest rule in the world to house rule for a tournament pack using these.
Eternal War missions vary in their objective placement, but generally fall into one of three buckets:
- Freely Placed. Players take turns placing a total of six objectives, which must be 12″ apart and 6″ from the board edge. This happens prior to rolling for Attacker and Defender, so players can’t safely “stack” one side of the board knowing they’ll be able to choose it.
- Curated. Generally this arises when one or more objective marker needs to be in the deployment zones. In this case, after players have picked their deployment zones objectives are placed according to a set of mission rules, often with a number of different restrictions.
- Fixed. Objective placement is specified by the mission.
Freely placed objectives are also used for all Schemes missions, so it’s worth having a quick discussion about strategy. It’s much harder to get objective placement “wrong” than it used to be – the original sets of missions had deployment zones chosen by the player placing the last objective, allowing them to heavily skew things in their favour – but you should still be at least thinking about what you want the map to look like. In general, you need to be deciding whether you want to be holding an objective in or near your deployment zone most of the game. If you think you’d prefer to go and contest the centre, or push your opponent back you generally want to place as many of the objectives mid-board as possible, ideally within a single turn’s move of deployment zones so you can grab them early on the way to a ruck. If your opponent wants the opposite it’s quite likely there will be an objective in your deployment zone you can keep something back to hold, or even two if your opponent stacked one zone and lost the roll off to choose.
If you’re in the position of wanting a home objective this is a little trickier, largely thanks to the existence of Vanguard Strike and Search and Destroy, which banish you to different corners of the map, and only intersect at points which are on their peripheries and also miles away from the deployment zones for either the long edge or short edge deployments. In an ideal world as this kind of army you usually want an objective placed in each of the four corners of the map, 6″ in diagonally, but you only have three to place so can’t ensure that unless your opponent helpfully cooperates, so what do you do?
In the case where it’s clear that you’re going to get no help from your opponent in creating a balance between possible deployment zones, I would recommend you do the following:
- Place your first objective in the bottom right corner, 9″ from the long edge and 6″ from the short edge.
- Place your second objective in the top left corner, 6″ from the long edge and 15″ from the short edge.
- Place your last objective in the bottom left corner 6″ from both edges.
Obviously if there’s particularly good terrain to hide an objective in/near you can modify the exact placement slightly, we’ll discuss why these distances have been picked in a second and you can use that to guide whether a given placement will owrk. You should flip this pattern around if your opponent is placing first and skews their first objective off centre towards either the top right or bottom left – your goal is to make the board as balanced as possible, so at that point you want the objective that’s going right in the corner to be on the opposite side from this one.
So what’s the purpose of the above setup? Well:
- Maximises the chances of you having at least one objective in your deployment zone (11/12 of the time you will), and gives you the ability to hold two without moving (either two are in the zone or one is in and one is within 3″ of the line) if you win the roll-off on any map except Vanguard Strike, where you will have one as deep into your zone as possible.
- Mitigates the 1/12 situation where you roll Vanguard Strike and lose the roll-off by having the two others you’ve placed that are within a single move of your deployment zone, allowing you to grab them quickly, or re-castle onto one of them on turn one.
- Puts all the objectives you’ve placed out on the fringes of the battlefield. If your opponent is stacking objectives in the middle of the board it’s likely that they don’t want to be committing forces out here, allowing you to make them either split their army up or concede these points to your more mobile elements.
This definitely isn’t a one-size fits all solution, but it shows off the kind of thing you need to be thinking of, and matchups can change it a lot. If you’ve got some backline elements but are up against a Marine army full of Thunderfires and Whirlwinds you might decide that you want to place objectives in deployment zones a bit further in from the edge of the board and away from any big pieces of LOS blocking cover they can deploy in. As ever with 40K strategy, you need to be thinking about both what you want to happen and what your opponent wants, and sometimes sacrificing your own plans to mess with your opponents can be the right play!
Crusade has freely placed objectives. At the start of each of your turns after the first, you score 1 VP for each objective you control.
Crusade is new in CA19, and is clearly intended to be the “default” pick up and go matched play mission going forward. That’s just fine with me, because it’s a significant improvement on the previous iterations. For a very generic objective-holding mission, start of turn scoring gives the most interactive gameplay and encourages players to plan ahead and strategise. The only drawback of it from a balance point of view is that it can somewhat favour the player with the first turn – they get the first chance to maneouvre onto objectives, and also the “last touch” on influencing scoring, as the second player’s final turn won’t affect objective holding. However, random game length mitigates the advantage of this a lot, as until turn 7 the first player still has to plan as if the game will continue, and can get badly punished if they assume it won’t and guessed wrong.
Start-of-turn scoring is something that is used by the NOVA tournament format, and a lot of the guidance we put into our primer for that applies here as well – this mission favours mobility and the ability to “durably” hold objectives, because you get points when you can move stuff onto an objective and keep it there for a turn while your opponent tries to stop you. That means this tends to reward:
- Transports, especially fast, tough ones with troops inside.
- Cheap characters that you can screen.
- Stuff that’s threatening at close range and a pain to kill (e.g. character Knights)
Sticking a Wave Serpent full of Dire Avengers onto an objective is basically peak performance in this mission (which is not why I’m so high on it, I’m a neutral observer, honest), but you can get a lot of mileage from the other options too. Characters like Death Jesters that can zip round the field at speed while also contributing to the shooting output of your army are great, while terrifying melee CHARACTERs like Lords Discordant and Knights can sit on an objective and heroic intervention into anything that tries to poke itself within 3″ to stop you scoring it, forcing your opponent to pick between killing the (probably quite tough) unit or conceding the point. Finally, armies with stratagems that let them make a non-CHARACTER unit untargetable (e.g. Alpha Legion) can also leverage these to get points.
In terms of what isn’t as good here, start-of-turn scoring significantly weakens armies that can flood the board with large amounts of mobile Troops, as you can’t rack up points by continually feeding units forward on your turn – your opponent gets a chance to stop you. That helps a lot with the balance of this mission. One of the problems with the six objective end-of-turn progressive scoring missions from previous sets was that if you went second against an army like Orks and Genestealer Cults they could usually box you into your deployment zone and get onto 4+ objectives early on, and bring in enough waves of extra bodies that it was almost impossible to stop them racking up an insurmountable lead. There’s much more counterplay possible here, weakening these armies quite a bit, and moving Troop units like Guard Infantry Squads that can cover a large amount of ground from being a “scoring” tool to being a “denial” tool, so bear that in mind when designing armies.
A. This mission succeeds 100% at its goal of being an easy to pick up entry-level mission that’s still satisfying for more experienced players.
Curated objective placement – after picking deployment zones, players place one objective each in “no-man’s land” then two each in their own deployment zone.
Players score 1 VP at the start of each battle round for each objective they control, but with an extra twist. If they control an objective in their opponent’s deployment zone, they can choose to raze it, gaining 3 VP instead of 1 but then removing it from the battlefield.
This is a returning mission from Chapter Approved 17, but massively improved from a balance perspective. The original version:
- Didn’t curate the objective placement. In theory this was to make you balance the risk/reward of placing objectives in your deployment zone or not. In practice, it meant you wanted objectives 0.1″ outside your deployment zone, and massively favoured aggressive armies that wanted them mid board.
- Scored at the end of the turn. This is less good balance-wise anyway for reasons already discussed, but was particularly egregious because it meant an objective secured unit that successfully managed to spike onto one of your home objectives for the turn could trivially burn it.
- Gave d3 extra VP for burning the objective rather than a fixed one. Randomly rolled VP values have no real place in a competitive setting.
What this summed up to was that, more than any of the other end-of-turn scoring missions, beating aggressive armies that pushed hard into your half of the board was an outrageous uphill struggle if they got the first turn, as they would start racking up big points and would often manage to tag an ObSec model onto your objectives and burn it, leaving you with no route back into the game. Missions like this were a part of why off-meta stuff like pre-codex Orks often spiked abnormally good performances at GW GTs – the army style was excessively advantaged by playing pure early edition EW missions.
This new version, rather impressively, fixes pretty much every problem with this mission – start-of-turn scoring fixes the problem of easy razes and the curated placement means players always have an even set of goals. The fixed VP reward for razing is also much clearer, and I’m glad it got set at 3 rather than 2, recognising how much harder pulling it off is now.
This mission is very similar to Crusade so pretty much all of the strategic advice from that mission applies here too. The curveballs it adds are the curated objective placement, and the option to raze them.
In terms of placing the objectives, you need to ask what your army is aiming to do. If you are intending to be defensive, then you probably want to put the two in your zone as close together as possible (i.e. 12″ apart). Most defensive armies can build a castle large enough to shield both under these circumstances, and being able to set this up without interference from your opponent, and taking account of whatever terrain is available, is a big help if you want to make your opponent come to you. However, the tradeoff for that is that if you do start the game defensively you are ceding scoring on four of the objectives until your opponent’s initial thrust has been repelled. With that in mind, there’s huge value to having some very fast units in a defensive army that can head out to quickly burn enemy objectives in the late game to level the score. Coldstar battlesuits (which often do the same in ITC) are probably the best example of this, but units that can redeploy, or go “back” into deep strike after the first turn (such as Swooping Hawks) are also good at it. Artillery that ignores LOS is also useful, as it lets you force the player who’s on the attack to either leave durable stuff on home objectives or lose the points for them in the mid-game. Finally, if you’re expecting to get rushed you often want to put your no-man’s land objective near the board edge, preferably as far away as possible from where you’ve set up your two home ones, forcing your opponent to split their forces to try and hold them.
As the offensive player, the priority here therefore is to make sure you are holding the four objectives not in your opponent’s deployment zone as much of the time as possible, while keeping them boxed in and seeing if you can sneak your way to razing an objective or two in their zone. You’ll often want to put the objectives in your deployment zone right on the forward line – there’s basically no risk of your opponent taking them early on, as anything they push onto them is going to get bodied – and then leave units like buff psykers on them, as they can often cast their powers at sufficient range that they can support the rest of the army while holding them. The same applies to no-man’s land ones that are far from the action, though these can be a bit harder.
You then want to push your opponent as hard as possible, keep them from moving out and get ObSec units from your army onto their home objectives via the charge and fight phases. Your primary goal with this is just to stop them scoring – if you’re racking up 3-4 points a turn and denying them even one of the two they’re aiming for the game is going to go your way. The real prize is to manage to raze their objectives. This is tough to do, but not impossible, particularly with sneaky use of fight phase moves in your opponent’s turn (for which you can check out our handy guide). This is especially true if you have abilities that let you make extra-long pile in/consolidate moves or to charge in your opponent’s turn. In this situation, you should almost always take the raze if you have the opportunity.
In support of this plan, you ideally want to remove as many of your opponent’s own Objective Secured stuff as quickly as possible, as it makes it much easier to deny them points or raze. Random Fire Warrior squads seeded in the Tau castle go up your target priority list quite a bit!
Finally, in a “mop-up” situation, when do you raze and when do you not (taking account of random game length). Assuming you also want to come out of the game with as many VP as possible, and hold one enemy objective, the decision tree is usually:
- On turn five, raze if doing so is required for you to be ahead on VP, otherwise don’t.
- On turn 6+, raze.
The “expected value” of an objective in terms of the mean VP is actually the same whether you raze on turn 5 or risk the 1/3 chance of the game ending – if you raze on 3 you get 3pts every time, whereas if you hold for 6 you get 1pt 1/3rd of the time and 4pts 2/3rds of the time. Your average is 3VP either way, but the median outcome is better (4VP) if you take the latter route, so if you’re trying to rack up a big score in the early rounds I’d usually do that. If I was holding both objectives I’d probably split the difference – raze one on 5 and hold one for 6, minimising the chance of a very low-rolled outcome. In later rounds of a tournament where you’re vying for the top position the maths might change – if you’re already ahead taking the “safe” option of razing all of them on 5 is probably best, but if you know you’re not going to podium without a massive score gambling on holding to 6 or even 7 can be the correct play (as long as that doesn’t risk you losing the game).
A. Takes a mission that was thematically cool but poorly balanced and fixes all of it’s issues, adding some real strategic depth in objective placement and planning for stealing and razing them.
Three objectives are placed, one in the centre of the board and two at least 15″ away from it on a line that runs equidistant between the two deployment zones.
Each objective is worth 1 VP at the end of each player turn. In addition, CHARACTER units have Objective Secured, and if a player controls an objective with the same CHARACTER at the end of more than one consecutive turn, the points they receive increases by one for each consecutive turn held.
Ascension was one of the best missions in CA2017 and one I’ve seen used to good effect in tournaments, and it’s a mark of how far the missions have come in the newer set that it now looks like one of the weaker ones. What’s good about it is that the playing field for where objectives are is pretty level – they’re along the centre line, so no stacking them in a deployment zone, and you can’t really win the mission without engaging the enemy. The setup does favour aggressive armies, as defensive forces have to move up a bit, but it forces the aggressor to potentially stop short of pushing as hard in to the enemy as possible, potentially doing less damage than they otherwise might and leaving themselves open for a counterattack.
The problem I have with this mission is that I can’t see any reason it hasn’t been updated to use start-of-turn scoring, and I think it would be much stronger for it. This mission can be extremely hard to win on some deployment maps (mostly short-edge ones) against a faster opponent that gets the first turn and occupies the mid-board in force. If they can get their characters there turn one, and the opponent doesn’t have the speed to reasonably dislodge them until their turn 2, that makes the uphill struggle considerable, and the game is very probably over if they’re still there by turn 3. It isn’t totally universal, but it’s a lot more common for very big scoring chains to be accumulated by the player going first than second, and especially in the current metagame there really doesn’t need to be any more incentive to go first.
I do still like this mission and it’s fine, but it could easily have been better with the same treatment as Scorched Earth. One improvement that has been made is that the wording on the character Objective Secured ability has been tightened up to make it clear that it’s equivalent to other Objective Secured abilities, not a different and even higher tier.
The rewards for building a chain of holds with the same character are massive here, and you should be aiming for them if at all possible. If you go first, that means pushing characters onto as many objectives as you safely can straight away – it gets you started on the scoring, and maximises the time you have to rack points up. You want to start at least one chain, and your goal from there on is to try and mess with the opponent’s attempts to do so for the rest of the game.
If you go second, the critical thing is to start at least one chain as quickly as you can, as otherwise you’ll get left in the dust. With that in mind, and on the back-foot because of player one being favoured, you’re almost certainly better off moving in force to grab one objective than launching a piecemeal attack against all three. Stopping two out of three of your opponent’s chains won’t help you in the long run if you don’t secure one chain for yourself, but if you completely smash them off an objective and take it for your own turn one, then take them off the other two over the next few turns, you can still overtake them with the late game scoring from your chained objective. If they have split their forces up to take three objectives, you can hopefully do more damage to them than they did to you by focusing your efforts into a single hammer blow. It’s most likely that you’ll want to pick one of the two flank objectives for this early push.
If they have only taken two of the three objectives, you do have a chance to try and seize the lead and you should often take it, especially if they are not making moves towards the third. If you have a nimble character (such as one with a jump pack or a bike) you can send them after the objective they haven’t taken, while attempting to hammer blow them out of the centre as above. This is something to watch out for in deployment – the Attacker will usually want to go first in this mission, so as the defender you’ll be able to see how they’ve deployed and plan your counterattack. if they’ve left one flank weak then deploying most of your units on the flank can be a powerful choice – it minimises the amount of their threats that will get range on you turn one, but you can still counterattack onto the centre while sending a smaller contingent onto the objective they’ve left uncontested. Full army deployment does definitely go some way to mitigating the flaws of this mission, but I would still prefer start-of-turn scoring.
The key thing as the second player is to be constantly aware of how far ahead your opponent can pull if you let them. Because of the more old-school mission design here, there’s a degree to which you’re playing from behind as soon as you lose the roll off, so be prepared to make big plays to try and take control.
C+. This is a fine mission but let down by sticking to the old scoring.
Curated objective placement. Each player (starting with the Defender) places one objective in their deployment zone, and then one objective along a line equidistant between the two deployment zones, more than 12″ from any other objective.
At the end of each battle round, the objectives are scored as follows:
- 1 VP for the objective in your deployment zone
- 2 VP for each objective in no-man’s land
- 4 VP the for the objective in your opponent’s deployment zone
This is a revised version of a CA17 mission, with end-of-game scoring replaced by end-of-battle round. End of battle-round scoring is another mechanism commonly used by tournament formats to balance off going first or second, and just like in the ITC format where it’s most commonly seen this mission gives some serious incentives for going second, especially to armies with the mobility to move up and take both no-man’s land objectives quickly. That dynamic tends to be pretty healthy, as it makes the game a struggle between the material advantage the first player might have built up by going first and the tactical advantage the second player has in controlling the scoring, leading to close games.
The other thing that’s changed from CA17, oddly, is the no-man’s land objective placement. Previously the objectives also had to be 12+” from the centre of the board, ensuring that one was on each “side” of the centre. That’s now gone, which creates some mild tactical play around placement.
For start-of-turn scoring we pointed you at our NOVA primer, for end-of-battle round scoring it’s the ITC primary primer’s turn to shine. The long and short of it is that if you’re going first, you need to plan for how you’re going to hold onto objectives sufficiently robustly that your opponent can’t sneak them off you with cunning movement, and as the player going second you should be looking for opportunities to cash in expendable units to steal points – with Acceptable Casualties in play this tradeoff can be worth it.
In terms of holding an objective such that your opponent can’t steal it, the best way is just to make it impossible for them to move onto it at all by bodily blocking it, usually with tanks or several layers of infantry. Remember that they can move in the charge phase as well and plan for that – depending on their movement – it might actually be safer to hang back on the far side of an objective, because if they can’t get close enough to issue a charge they can’t use that part of their movement. If you can’t stop them taking the objective, at least make them do it in force and get ready to punish them for it to reduce the chance of it happening again.
Because of the need to really secure an objective as the first player, it’s quite likely to be a good idea to go after one of the two no-man’s land objectives in force on turn one rather than trying to take both – as the first player a failed attempt to secure yourself an objective earns you very little other than drawing a bit of firepower, and while that can sometimes be valuable, in the early game when your opponent’s guns are still operating at full capacity it’s probably a recipe for throwing models away – better to lock in some points. As the first player, the opponent’s home objective is also probably a trap unless you’re in mop-up mode, as unless they’ve done something that leaves themselves wide open to powerful deep strikers getting enough things onto it to hold it is going to stretch you pretty thin.
As the second player you have a lot more tactical options to play with, but are likely to start out behind on models. Because sacrificing more units is often going to be a route to some points, you need to manage the rate at which you do that so that you build up a decent lead, but don’t run out of stuff early enough that your opponent can smash you off the board with time to take your home objective and make up the score. Sneaky charges or advances with cheap Troops is your number-one way of taking objectives, with “wrap and trap” moves with Troop melee threats being especially potent, as that can negate your opponent’s ability to push you back off the objective.
For you, the opponent’s home objective is also a much more realistic opportunity, and stealing it for even a turn can turn a growing lead into an insurmountable one. Charges out of deep strike are likely your best option here, but anything that lets you move something at an unexpectedly high rate, like double move psychic powers or advance and charge abilities can be gross here. This mission will be a complete nightmare to play against a GSC cult army if they’re going second, as the extent to which they can control the scoring is nearly unmatched.
Finally, the objective placement in this mission gives the Attacker a reasonable degree of control over the setup. Different armies might prefer the no-man’s land objectives to be either pretty close together or a long way apart, but the Attacker effectively gets to decide whether the objectives are 12″ apart or as far apart as the map will permit. The Defender can at least “cap” this by choosing to place their objective right in the middle of the battlefield, but on either corner deployment the Attacker still has a lot of leeway to split them up.
B+. A good mission, with the only let down being that I think it would be better if the Defender had the edge in controlling where objectives went rather than the Attacker. Because the Attacker will often choose to go second in this mission, it would be nice to give the Defender that extra degree of control.
The Four Pillars
The Four Pillars returns from CA18 with only a tiny change and is heavily ITC inspired. There are four objectives on the battlefield in a square. At the end of each battle round, you score 1 VP if you hold more objectives than your opponent, and 3 VP if you hold all four. In addition, the player that destroyed more of their opponent’s units in the battle round receives 1VP.
Objectives in this mission can only be held by Troops.
Terrain in this mission is placed after setting up objectives, and must be at least 3″ away from them.
Ugh, they kept the Troops stipulation. After seeing the other upgrades to missions I hoped it would be gone, as without it this is basically a stepping stone to playing ITC, and hey that’s a totally fine thing to throw into the mix. With the stipulation in there, this mission can be heavily skewed by what each player has, at least in a tournament setting.
While I’m not a fan of this, it’s clearly down to an audience clash – the designer’s commentary for this mission identifies that they expect you to be tailoring your list to it, but while that’s often how people will play at home it isn’t really in-line with how the game gets played at event and (often) clubs. Obviously most armies will include some Troops, and punishing heavily skewed lists is fine in what are designed to be “accessible” competitive missions, but I think at the point where one of the objectives is unscorable unless you have at least four Troops units alive (or I guess two small and one big one) you’ve swung too far to being prescriptivist.
Some of the same strategic considerations apply as in the previous mission, but they’ll frequently be subsumed by a more brutal calculation. Can you ever realistically score objective points in this mission? Especially as the player going first, doing so probably requires you to take and hold two objectives that are at least relatively exposed with Troops units all the way through your opponent’s turn, and for them not to be able to respond by just putting two of their own Troops units out onto objectives. Can you manage that?
The answer might be yes if you’re something like Orks or GSC, but if not, your only real route to victory is kicking your opponent in, starting with their Troops units, because if they get too many objective points then the game is basically over if you concede even a few turns of the Kill More objective. It’s also vitally important that you score the standard objectives, and denying your opponent Slay the Warlord is probably higher up your priority list than normal, so be cautious with your warlord.
If you have lots of transports or Troops that Deep Strike you might have an alternative option, which is to hold thos eunits back until you’ve butchered your opponent’s troops and then deploy them. You might concede a few early points of hold more, but if you can pull those back mid game then you’ll be OK as long as you didn’t let your opponent get a big 3VP turn. You might want to put Troops onto one objective just to force the opponent to commit to taking two (or at least getting rid of your models) and this can become a powerful option if you have some sort of ability to stop them being targeted or take their hits (one wouldn’t use Drones to protect Fire Warriors but here it might be worth it).
Also, if the worst happens and your opponent does manage a 3VP turn early on, do not follow through and table them quickly – because if you have no Troops and they have no units for you to kill, you literally can’t score any points other than Linebreaker. Instead, space out the last few kills to one a turn while hiding anything from your army that’s the slightest bit vulnerable. It’s not bad manners – blame the mission. This is another reason to hold a single unit of troops in a transport or something if you can spare one, as once you’re done mostly tabling them they can pop out and get you a point a turn.
As the second player, you have a lot more control over the scoring here, and a lot of avenues to a win if you manage your resources correctly. The first player is in the big bind that if they commit their troops to an early attempt to take the objective you can probably just thwart them, and pull ahead, but if they don’t you can space out when you deploy your own Troops to maximise your scoring for minimal expenditure. In addition, you know exactly how many units you need to kill to “flip” a turn of Kill More into your favour, which you should absolutely do if the opportunity presents itself.
This mission frustrates the hell out of me because the problems with it are so needless – without the Troops only stipulation you could fight back against a bad start as the first player by taking the opponent off the board. As it is, in extreme cases it’s possible to be in a situation where you table your opponent on turn three but cannot win the game. Acceptable Casualties is cool and all, but that’s way too far.
C. The fundamentals are OK, and it’s fine if both players are tailoring lists, but the Troop-only stipulation is a huge mistake that they’ve had a year to fix and just…haven’t.
Objectives are freely placed. At the start of the first battle round (so after deployment and final determination of the first turn) the player going first designates an objective as objective 1, while the player going second selects objective 6. Then, players take turns selecting an objective (starting with the player going first) and randomly determining a number for it from the remaining set of 2-5.
At the start of each battle round between 2-5, remove the appropriately numbered objective.
Players score 1VP for each objective they hold at the end of their turns, and 1VP for holding more at the end of the battle round.
This is entirely new and it’s pretty wild – but in a way that I prefer quite a bit to the more out-there designs from last year as there’s some actual strategy and dynamism to it. Essentially each player gets to pick a “safe” home objective, but the rest will gradually evaporate from as early as turn 2, changing the dynamics of the battle and rewarding forces that have planned ahead. While I’m still not the biggest fan of end-of-turn scoring, having an end-of-battle round component as well plus the shifting dynamics.
Of all the missions in here, this is the one I’m itching to get a chance to properly play, and all I’ve got to offer are my initial snap thoughts, but here’s what I’ve got:
- Choosing which objective will be your “home” objective should be pretty easy – and for the Defender, it’s likely to be pretty clear which one the Attacker is going to choose during deployment, allowing them to adapt appropriately.
- You really really want the opponent’s “second easiest” objective to be the one that gets numbered 2, but I don’t think it actually matters which order you choose the remaining ones – they ultimately just get set randomly.
- Where you can control the objectives here is that there’s a lot higher value in the overall “configuration” being the way you want (i.e. spread out for a mobile army, clustered in the centre for an aggressive rush army). A mobile army can afford to commit a unit to taking an objective in a corner that might only remain for a few turns, a slower army probably can’t.
- The number of points available go down over time, so letting your opponent build up a big early lead is bad news.
- As the second player, you should probably prioritise bodying your opponent off objective 5 as your top priority, as it’ll be around the longest.
- Like with ITC, getting hold more is easiest on the turns with an odd number of objectives, so battle rounds 2 and 4 here. As the second player, you should definitely be aiming to take these, especially as you might need them to unpick your opponent’s lead.
- If you’re on the trajectory to table your opponent, but you’re behind on points, make sure you have forces heading towards their home objective nice and early as once there are only two on the board you need to hold both to get 3VP per round instead of 1 VP.
Beyond that, a lot of the same rules from earlier scenarios apply. My only real concern with this mission is whether it does enough to mitigate the first turn advantage from end-of-turn scoring – I wonder if letting the second player pick which objective is 2 might have countered that? I’m still super hyped to have a go at this one, and if you’ve had a chance to give it a play let me know in the comments!
B+. Lots of promise here, and whether it turns out to be good or great it’s a massive improvement on the weird and wacky fare from last year!
That’s it for Eternal War – join us next time as we delve into the mysteries of Schemes of War. Once again, if you have comments, questions, suggestions or want to remind me that writing about competitive formats other than ITC is deep and profound heresy and that I should hang my head in shame, we can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our Facebook Page.